Political Parties Act Like Schools of Fish

Vocal minorities can temporarily sway the masses
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2011 1:23 PM CST
Democrats and Republicans Behave Like Schools of Fish
Fish may have a lot to teach us about politics.   (Shutterstock)

Wondering about the future of the Tea Party, or what affect the Occupy Movement might have on Democrats? Try asking a bunch of fish. Scientists have found that in a school of fish, a "vocal minority"—that is, a group determined to swim in a certain direction—can entice a less-committed majority to follow. But when uncommitted fish are introduced, they tend to follow the majority.

So what does this mean for politics? When die-hard liberals made the Dems veer left in the 1970s, the nation's wealth of moderates pulled things back to the center. More recently, a loud minority like the Tea Party was able to score plenty of seats in the 2010 election. But many of those seats may be up for grabs in the next election, with voters generally preferring "simple compromise" over "ideological purity," writes Jeffrey Kluger in Time. Indeed, "the modern history of both major political parties does show some distinctly fish-like behavior." (More political party stories.)

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